The Arab Renaissance


Muslim Arab scientists played a significant role and had great influence on human civilization through their numerous contributions during the Middle Ages. These contributions varied from discoveries, inventions, and theories in the fields of medicine, chemistry, pharmacy, physics, geometry, algebra, mechanics, mathematics, astronomy, to the humanities, including poetry, literature, and social sciences. We can thus say, they contributed to human knowledge as a whole, which is the main reason behind the development we are witnessing at the present time.

While ignorance prevailed Europe, the Middle Ages from the 8th century to the 15th century represented the Golden Age for Arab scientists and its civilization. For example, in mathematics, which is the foundation upon which human civilization in the modern era was built, Karl Popper—one of the greatest philosophers of science—stated in his book The History of Mathematics in 1994, “Without the Arabs’ discovery of the Arabic numeral system, mathematics would have still been in its early stages. Instead, through this discovery, humans became able to invent and to know nature as a whole”. Unfortunately, most Arabs and non-Arabs do not know that.

Arabs have contributed to the field of medicine where they published several books, such as Al-Hāwī by Abu Bakr Al-Razi in 864, Al-Tasrīf (The Method of Medicine) by Abu Al-Qasim Al-Zahrawi in 1035, and The Canon of Medicine by Avicenna in 1037. These books were taught in European universities until the 18th century, and were the basis of modern medicine.

Muslim scholars have also excelled in pharmacology, and it is sufficient what was mentioned in the Encyclopedia Britannica, which reads “The truth is that a lot of drugs and compounds known up until now—obviously except modern compounds—and the general structure of modern pharmaceutical industry were initiated by the Arabs”.

As for astronomy, Arabs had many contributions that vary from the discovery of stars locations, movements, and the distances between them to the invention of machines and tools for observing them. Arab contributions were the cornerstone for establishing astronomy, naming stars and identifying their locations. This is evident when reviewing the names of stars and planets at the present, where we would discover that most of them have maintained their original Arabic names.

In this introductory article, it is not possible to mention all Arab contributions to human civilization in general, and to science in specific. These words are only a brief glimpse of the influence of the Arab civilization. Even Greek and Roman sciences were translated by Arabs, and they had the biggest role in transferring them to the other nations by then.

We will be elaborating in next articles, on specific contributions, discoveries, and inventions that have contributed to human civilization, where Arabs have been the pioneers and leaders, and the effects of which are reflected today.

I will conclude this article by George Sarton’s statement: “Muslims are the geniuses of the East; they had great influence on humanity. They took over the documentation of valuable, original, and profound studies, using the Arabic language, which is without doubt the language of science for the human race... Muslims have achieved what can be called the miracle of Arab science”.

The article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Winter 2014.

Cover banner: CordobaArabianArchs. Credit: Luca Volpi/Wikimedia

About Us

SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
Continue reading

Contact Us

P.O. Box 138, Chatby 21526, Alexandria, EGYPT
Tel.: +(203) 4839999
Ext.: 1737–1781

Become a member

© 2023 | Bibliotheca Alexandrina